Presence and Being

Reveal your presence,
And may the vision of Your beauty be my death.1

The soul is right in daring to say, may the vision of Your beauty be my death, since she knows that at the instant she sees this beauty she will be carried away by it, and absorbed in this very beauty, and transformed in this same beauty, and made beautiful like this beauty itself, and enriched and provided for like this very beauty.2

In explanation of this verse it should be known that God’s presence can be of three kinds;

The first is His presence by essence. In this way He is present not only in the holiest souls, but also in sinners and in all other creatures. For with this presence He gives us life and being. Should this essential presence be lacking to us, we would not be – we would all be annihilated. Thus this presence is never lacking to the soul.

The second is His presence by grace. Not all have this presence of God – the soul cannot know naturally if it has this presence.

The third is His presence by spiritual affection, for God usually grants His spiritual presence to devout souls in many ways, by which He refreshes, delights and gladdens them.

Yet, these many kinds of spiritual presence, just as the others, are all hidden, for in them God does not reveal Himself as He is, since the conditions of this life will not allow for such a manifestation.3

Since it is certain that at least in the first way God is ever present in the soul, she does not ask Him to be present in her, but that He so reveal His presence that she may be able to see Him in His divine being and beauty. As He gives the soul natural being through His essential presence, and perfects her through His presence by grace, she begs Him to glorify her also with His manifest glory. 4

The soul that loves God lives more in the next life than in this, for the soul lives where it loves more than where it gives life, and thus has but little esteem for the temporal life.

  1. St John of the Cross. The Spiritual Canticle (SC). Stanza 11
  2. SC. 11:10
  3. SC. 11:3
  4. SC. 11:4

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